Kyoto Prize 2015: Inamori Foundation announces this year’s laureates

19 June 2015

Kyoto, Japan - The Kyoto Prize, alongside the Nobel Prize one of the world’s highest honors for the lifetime achievement of outstanding personalities in the fields of culture and science, is being awarded this year to Dr. Toyoki Kunitake, Chemist; President, Kitakyushu Foundation for the Advancement of Industry, Science and Technology, Dr. Michel Mayor, Astrophysicist; Professor Emeritus, University of Geneva, and Mr. John Neumeier, an American-born choreographer; Intendant and Artistic Director, The Hamburg Ballet. Each worth 50 million yen (around €360,000/£290,000*), the prizes are awarded each year by the Inamori Foundation, which was initiated in 1984 by Dr. Kazuo Inamori, founder of the Japanese technology corporation Kyocera.

19 June 2015 – Kyoto, Japan/Neuss, Germany − With its Kyoto Prize, the Inamori Foundation pays tribute to the lifetime achievement of personalities who have excelled in their fields through outstanding accomplishments. In accordance with tradition, the presentation ceremony will be traditionally held in Kyoto on 10 November 2015.

Kyoto Prize Laureates 2015

The Committee awards the Kyoto Prize in the categories “Advanced Technology”, “Basic Sciences” and “Arts and Philosophy”. This year the laureates are being honored in the related prize categories “Materials Science and Engineering”, “Earth and Planetary Sciences, Astronomy and Astrophysics”, “Theater, Cinema”.

Dr. Toyoki Kunitake (Japan)

Dr. Toyoki Kunitake, a pioneer in the field of Materials Science, is best known as the first scientist to discover synthetic bilayer membranes and as the creator of the new field of chemistry based on molecular self-assembly. After his epoch-making discovery in 1977, Dr. Kunitake helped to illuminate the formation of bilayer membranes as a universal phenomenon. He is credited with developing various methods for bilayer membrane immobilization, synthesizing two-dimensional polymer and two-dimensional ultrathin silica films using thin layer structures built by organic molecular assembly as molds, and developing a technique for manufacturing large, free-standing nanostructured thin films. His molecular self-assembly is widely recognized as one of the most useful concepts in advanced materials design. A native of Fukuoka Prefecture, Dr. Kunitake, 79, is a recipient of various awards and honors, including the Chemical Society of Japan Award, Japan Academy Prize and Person of Cultural Merit.

Dr. Michel Mayor (Switzerland)

Dr. Michel Mayor has made outstanding contributions to a new vision of the universe by discovering the first extrasolar planet orbiting a Sun-like star. He achieved this feat by continuously refining and improving observation technology, including the development of a series of spectrographs. He deployed a technique known as the radial velocity method with the use of the spectrographs to measure the velocity of exoplanets. The exoplanet research stimulated by Dr. Mayor is raising expectations that an exoplanet similar to Earth will be discovered in the not-too-distant future. Dr. Mayor, 73, from Lausanne, Switzerland, has received many prizes including the Albert Einstein Medal, Shaw Prize in Astronomy and Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society, and is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, European Academy of Sciences and National Academy of Sciences.

John Neumeier (Germany, USA)

Mr. John Neumeier is a globally known choreographer who has successfully applied traditional ballet techniques and vocabulary to maximize the potential for bodily expression and capture the details of human psychology. He has combined the essence of two genres, dramatic ballet and abstract ballet, raising the art to a new level. A native of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Mr. Neumeier studied English Literature and Theater Studies in college before moving to Europe, where he quickly established himself as a full-fledged choreographer. His masterpieces, such as Illusions – like “Swan Lake”, are performed not only in Germany but around the world. Mr. Neumeier, 73, has been artistic director and chief choreographer of the Hamburg Ballet for more than four decades. He is a recipient of many awards including the Nijinsky Award and German Dance Prize.

John Neumeier (© Steven Haberland), Dr. Toyoki Kunitake, Dr. Michel Mayor (from left to right)

About the Kyoto-Prize

The Inamori Foundation was founded in 1984 by Kazuo Inamori, founder and now chairman emeritus of Kyocera Corp., a widely diversified fine ceramic and semiconductor components and electronic devices company based in Kyoto. The foundation awards the Kyoto Prize annually to people who have made significant contributions in the categories of Advanced Technology, Basic Sciences and Arts and Philosophy.